Following on from their album Heartland Soul released last spring, which received a very positive reaction from folk radio presenters and critics alike*, on 23rd February Red Velvet release their new EP Darkness & the Angels with a new line-up.
Singer Deirdre Murphy, songwriter Les Ray and drummer Colin R. Smith are joined by Gene Thunderbolt on keyboard/electric guitar and Mike Udin on bass, and the result is a bigger, more folk-rock/bluesy sound. Les and Deirdre work collaboratively and Deirdre has recently been writing her own material and also contributing to some joint songwriting projects. They believe that one of the many joys of working with their talented musicians is how their contributions and input lead to quality and exciting final versions of their songs, making them truly representative of the whole band.
Red Velvet was originally Deirdre and Les as a duo, and they chose the name because the red part stood for deeply committed political songs on the side of the dispossessed and the marginalised and the velvet part for songs of the heart steeped in life experience.
That has never been truer than in this EP, which tackles some tough issues in its five self-penned tracks. The EP’s title Darkness & the Angels hints at that struggle between the forces of negativity and positivity that we have to face so often in our daily lives. In 2011 Deirdre and her brother, actor Gerard Murphy, were both diagnosed with cancer within a couple of weeks of each other. Deirdre has been in remission for 7 years now, but Gerard sadly passed away in 2013.
Aware of the healing power of music, the band continued to perform through those sad and difficult times. But memories of those dark days never go away, and now Deirdre has put the experience into words in the chilling yet life-affirming song Ride of Darkness (“In the time of our long days of cancer/Of treatments, of drugs and that’s life/We laughed and we cried, we stood side by side, We gave it our best to survive”). The music ebbs and flows between the gentle and the dramatic, with a glimmer of hope emerging at the end (“Where despair becomes a light”).
2013 not only saw the loss of Deirdre’s brother, but also of Les’ mum, so both found themselves coming to grips with grief, but also the challenge of what to do with all the precious things that had belonged to their loved ones. From this came the co-written Self-Storage, in which Gene’s church organ sound and the hymn-like melody reference Les’ mum’s Methodist faith.
The other songs on the EP move from the personal to the political, always very present in Red Velvet’s music, but particularly now in these Trump-and-Brexit-blighted times. The Fourth Freedomis a full-blown heavy folk-rock song, with Colin and Mike’s driving drums and bass and guitar pyrotechnics from Gene. It’s an imagined story of a family wanting to cross an unnamed sea; while they are not allowed to travel, they watch how easily the goods they have helped manufacture make that move (The EU’s ‘four freedoms’ are those of movement across borders for goods, capital, services and labour, with people - as ever - last on the list). After the War harkens back to the optimism that was felt as WWII drew to a close, bringing the Labour Party to power in 1945 and leading to the creation of the NHS in 1948 - such optimism is badly needed now!
Finally,That’ll never happen in real life, which starts the EP, is a playful revisiting of three stories from fiction - a play, a film and a book (a free copy of the EP to the first person to guess which they are) - that could never happen in real life. ... or could they?
* (“chocolate voice, meaningful songs” - Sue Marchant, BBC Regional Radio; “I enjoyed the whole album ... love the singer’s voice ... like the writing” - Liz Franklin, Eden Folk; “the album’s variety is impressive” - Maverick magazine; “timely songs of inclusion” - Country Music magazine).
Contact Les Ray tel.: 07903 521412